Jan Jelinek: Interview
About to embark on a mini-tour of America in support of his latest release,
La Nouvelle Pauvert, Jan Jelinek comes out from behind the laptop to set
the record straight: He just wants to rock. The man behind some of the most
innovative electronic music of the past few years explains his music, the state
of electronic music, and his intimate side.
Tiny Mix Tapes:
Each of your various musical personas focus on different elements but still retain some key trademark sounds of yours. Do you consciously sit down and record a Farben track or a Jan Jelinek track?
Jan Jelinek: No. Not really. When I start to produce a track, there is no plan to create a Farben, a Gramm or a Jelinek track. These decisions happen during the process of the production. When I started to release music as Farben, there were no strong conceptual ideas about the project or the moniker. My first EP is a good example of this. During the following years and releases, the Farben project established itself as a more dance/house/club-orientated outlet. This also depends on the label that releases it. As Gramm, I released an album on Source Records in 2000. This album was released after I made the decision that Farben will focus on more club-oriented work. So a new name was necessary, because Gramm is something like an attempt to release a post-ambient-something album. Under my real name, everything can happen. My first Jelinek album had a strong conceptual idea…the new one is the opposite of that.
Tiny Mix Tapes: You recently released a live project with Japanese fusion group Computer Soup. How did that come about? Do you have any other plans to collaborate with anyone else?
Jan Jelinek: In 2001, I played a few shows in Japan with Pole. Our tour manager runs the Soup-Disk label, which has released some Computer Soup albums. Soup-Disk Records I really recommend. Not many people know much about their releases because of distribution problems. Computer Soup's Toizarasi album is very good. Masa, our tour manager, arranged a show together with them in Tokyo, and we decided to jam while I was there. The album is actually a result of a three/four hour jamming at their place. We cut out the best pieces and did some after-edits. I have a new collaboration project with a band called Triosk. They're a trio, playing with traditional instruments ... drums, piano and double-bass. They gave me a cd-r with a composition based on a loop of mine from loop-finding-jazz-records. I was amazed by their work so we decided to do something together. I send a few loops and they perform compositions around the ideas. Hopefully, we will release the results during the next year.
Tiny Mix Tapes: Despite all of the electronic music being released lately, I have this strange feeling that you listen to other types of music? Is that true? What are some of your current favorites?
Jan Jelinek: Yes, this is definitely true. I'm still influenced by a lot of electronic music, but I don't have the enthusiasm about this genre like I had in the late 80's and early 90's. During the last few years, I was getting back to a lot of music which I preferred before I had discovered techno and its sub-genres. I was getting back to soul, funk and jazz-records. Most recently, I bought a reissue of an old Lennie Hibbert album, originally released on Studio One…great album. Hibbert is a vibe-player and his backing band is the usual Studio One house band, playing rocksteady/soul/jazzy-influenced tunes. I also bought an old Low album…Secret Name. I love all of their stuff.
Tiny Mix Tapes: You're about to come to America for a brief US tour. Are you excited to play in America? Do you re-create tracks from your albums or improvise completely?
Jan Jelinek: Yes, sure. America is always impressing. I toured here with Bernd Friedmann and Pole in 2000, which was really inspiring. The reception of electronic music is so different from Europe. Its more (rock)-concert-orientated. At first, I was confused about that, but afterwards, I really enjoyed this kind of context. I try to recreate my album and try to combine house-influenced tracks with experimental ambient pieces. Maybe I will improvise as well. It depends on the situation. My main focus will be on the recreation of my latest album.
Tiny Mix Tapes: Most of your music seems rather faceless however in recent months, you've been gaining more and more popularity and crossing over to new fans. Do you let the music speak for itself or have you made any conscious efforts to get your music heard more?
Jan Jelinek: I don't have a strategy about how I can get more people to hear my music. I guess one reason is that I focus my work on album/cd releases. The cd is a medium which is approachable to much more people than vinyl. I also think that my influences and references open to a wide range of genres. Maybe this attitude is reaching more listeners as well. Maybe electronic music is crossing more and more to new listeners and isn't isolated anymore to the clubs.
Tiny Mix Tapes: As jazz seems to be one of your inspirations, do you record in a similar fashion to Miles Davis…by recording and then editing the music into more concise tracks? What are some of the jazz records that influenced you?
Jan Jelinek: Jazz is not really a major inspiration. I don't think that my work has anything to do with jazz in its traditional description or in its traditional parameters. I'm more interested in jazz as a cultural phenomenon and in jazz as a specific sound. Concerning these traditional parameters, a jazz musician would be described as being a virtuoso instrument player, who is improvising. I do not play a traditional instrument and my collages are demonstrating anti-virtuosity, caused by repetition and sound (not tone) modulation. Actually, I'm standing more in the tradition of electronic music. On that note, I think that every genre can be seen as specific and unique in sound. I tried to explore that with the loop-finding-jazz-records album. The reviews of the Computer Soup collaboration often mentioned the presumption of a Miles Davis influence. This is flattering but I would describe that work more as an electronic album. Truth is, we tried to mutate even the trumpet-layers into texture.
Tiny Mix Tapes: Your music might sound cold and mechanical to someone not familiar with the genre. Do you have an emotional connection to your music that people might be missing? How do you feel about the music you are creating?
Jan Jelinek: I don't see my music as cold and mechanical. I always try to reach a result which is as organic and warm as possible. That's what I miss in a lot of electronic music. As it starts with electronics, there was always this connotation with machines, industrial production, industrial buildings. I was never into that at all. I'm sure that machines can create intimacy. This is what I am working for…deconstructing the image of machine-music.
Tiny Mix Tapes: Do you ever feel that your sound gets you pigeon-holed into a particular genre? Do you consider yourself a part of the current electronic music community?
Jan Jelinek: I guess I'm a part of the current electronic music community. I feel connected to some current producers, but I also feel that a lot of electronic music is missing personal touches. Too many people try to sound like their major influences. Very often, the result is a bad copy of the original…which shows no other perspective than the influence. This problem seems to have grown especially in the last two years. One sound concept, which handicaps the development of new concepts and ideas. Isn't it bizarre? A genre which once stood for innovation, is now only reproducing itself. This happens with every new genre after time, but the strange thing is that electronic music still describes itself as modern and innovative.
Tiny Mix Tapes: Is the new album ‘La Nouvelle Pauvrete' the official follow-up to ‘Loop-Finding Jazz Records?' Can you explain why you chose to make a fictitious backing band? What do you feel seperates this release from your previous Jan Jelinek album?
Jan Jelinek: Maybe follow-up is the wrong word. I think you can see
La Nouvelle Pauvert as a response to ‘loop-finding-jazz-records'. Maybe something like a contradiction. ‘Loop-finding-jazz-records' was based on a strong conceptual idea. Each track was created using a specific production method…an exploration of sound, underlined by each track. The new album denies a concept…a specific sound idea. Hopefully without losing something like my own personal touches. I tried to make an album which shows diversity and doesn't have a connection between the other tracks. I was getting a little tired of the conceptual strictness of many recent electronic releases. I tried to loosen this attitude by adding the fictitious band. Getting away from the conceptual aspects and going more into a new direction, which allows for rock attitudes as well.